Schools likely to get 1-year waiver for growth scores, teacher evaluations

Schools likely to get 1-year waiver for growth scores, teacher evaluations

The state of Georgia will seek a one year waiver to avoid “the high-stakes consequences related to the use of student growth measures in new teacher and leader evaluation systems,” State Stuperindent Dr. John Barge announced Wednesday.

The new Georgia Milestones Assessments have spawned plenty of discussion and debate within the massive debate over Common Core, the standards they align to. One persistent concern has come from teachers who will be evaluated according to student performance on these tests.

Added to the mix this year were the new Student Growth Measures, meant to identify a student’s relative performance on tests over time. It has already been announced that Georgia Milestones test results will not effect student promotion from grade to grade this year. Now, the state is asking for a similar delay in applying the Student Growth metric to teacher evaluations.

“As we transition to a new assessment system, we need additional time before incorporating student growth in high-stakes personnel decisions,” Dr. Barge said. “A one year delay will ensure that teachers and leaders are aware of the impact of more rigorous standards and high-quality assessments, and that they have time to amend instructional practices and engage in the necessary professional learning.”

The press release from Barge’s office said the data will still be collected for the 2014-15 school year, but will not have consequences if the waiver is granted at the federal level.

Fayette County Superintendent Dr. Jody Barrow said there has been conversation about this waiver for some time, and the expectation had been that the waiver would be granted. He observed the U.S. Department of Education had already announced it would allow states these waivers, a point also made in Barge’s press release.

“I think it’s a wise decision,” Barrow said Thursday.

He said the one year adjustment period is a welcome opportunity for the school system to continue to educate and prepare its teachers on the new standards. Student test results are expected to be lower this year in some subjects, and Barrow said those results will establish baselines for future testing. The “rigor,” or difficulty of the tests, is going up in some areas, Barrow said.

“We’re telling our folks we still want to give our very best effort because the data coming out of the spring assessments will be used as baseline data. Anything we’re doing, we want to do the best we can every time it comes down the pipe,” Barrow said.

“I think our teachers are getting their arms around it. Of course that requires them to change their instruction a little bit if they weren’t already teaching at that level. I think a lot of our folks were already teaching at that level,” Barrow said.

He granted that a lot of teachers are “anxious” about how the test scores will effect their evaluations.

The one year waiver will not apply to districts that are already part of “Race to the Top,” according to Barge’s release. Those 26 Race to the Top districts will implement Student Growth measures into teacher evaluations as planned.

Josh Akeman

Josh Akeman is the managing editor of the Fayette County News, Today in Peachtree City, and East Coweta Journal. He is a graduate of Fayette County High School and the University of Georgia.